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There shall be secondary after the primary!

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Sanwo-Olu. Photo: Duisaf

And so, Ambode could not be forgiven his ‘sins’ by the godfather. He has been smashed like a gadfly and when the polls open sometime in February next year to pick a governor for Lagos State after the 2015/2019 electoral cycle, his name shall be missing from the ballot paper. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is part of the Akinwunmi Ambode administration in Lagos as managing director of Lagos Property Development Corporation (LSDPC) has been chosen by the oracle to replace him.

It wasn’t as if a proper trial was conducted and Akinwunmi Ambode found guilty of serious and unpardonable sins. He was just unfortunate to be on the scene at this time. The charge, specifically, was that he had forgotten, since he became governor about three and half years ago, to invite the real owners of Lagos State to the dining table. It was not also said that he was eating alone while others were kept at bay salivating.

I ask for liberty to explain the charges against Ambode. The prosecutors are not saying Ambode has failed as a governor of Lagos State. They are saying he has not performed as governor of All Progressives Congress (APC). In leading the charge, the chief prosecutor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said he was sending Ambode to the gallows to appease aggrieved party stakeholders not state stakeholders.

Let’s establish the parties in the case. It is Ambode versus APC and not Ambode versus Lagosians. The assumption here is that Lagos and its estimated 25 million people are synonymous with APC stakeholders and nothing else outside the APC is required to install a governor at Alausa in 2019. It is an audacious calculus that ascribes no value to variables. And it all seems so well wrapped up that the stakeholders have started singing victory songs. Even as a mere APC candidate for the governorship election in Lagos State, Jide Sanwo-Olu gave an acceptance speech that sounded like an inauguration speech.

Maybe Ambode is to blame. If he were actually interested in mandate renewal, he should have acted like a monkey to catch a monkey. If in 2015, a band of public plunderers floated a Joint Venture Company (JVC) to plunder Lagos and made him, Ambode, the CEO of the plundering company, the overarching objectives would be definitely reiterated at the first AGM of the JVC to evaluate performance and establish areas of operation of the venture that require rejigging.

Ambode did not understand his job description. He took it that he had been given powers of attorney to act in good conscience and in public good. He went ahead to spread the arising dividends disproportionately such that preferential shareholders had less than ordinary shareholders whose investment in the JVC did not go beyond their residency in Lagos. This was why the vote to take him down from the CEO’s seat could not be defeated at the AGM. In fact, it was overwhelmingly passed without significant opposition. It was 970,851 votes to 72,901.

It sounds funny but it is the exact way to describe the diabolic economics that attended the APC governorship primary in which the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode was boxed into an underdog in a competition where he was the defending champion. Rapidly, security yielded to conspiracy as everybody around Ambode, including his deputy, Mrs Oluranti Adebule showed open hostility and a desire to betray. The plan was not just to defeat but humiliate Ambode and establish the point beyond contention that there is indeed only one maximum leader in Lagos State called, in simple terms, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, and in superlative terms, The Lion of Bourdillon, as well as the Jagaban Borgu.

Meanwhile, so much had happened behind the scene in the days preceding the APC primary in Lagos State to change the narrative. Kings begged Tinubu to forget and forgive. Governors also did. One from the North reportedly defied his Islamic faith and prostrated in anticipation of moving the Jagaban to show mercy. The move failed. The Presidency also pleaded to no avail. Mr. Dele Momodu, who claims uncommon intimacy with the Asiwaju also tried using his Pendulum column in ThisDay Newspaper. Like a palace orator cum praise singer, Mr. Momodu prefaced his plea with flowering description of Tinubu’s unmatched political prowess and contributions to the birth of this democracy in 1999.

Nothing changed and against all entreaties, Tinubu, like Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart drew his machete and struck down a boy who called him father. If the parallel in Things Fall Apart is adopted, it would mean something other than Ambode has been ‘killed’ by Tinubu. Okonkwo never had rest after killing Ikemefuna. The fear of being thought weak or the desire to establish his prowess beyond dispute kept pushing him from one misstep to another until he got into the noose in his final step to self-damnation.

I am not saying it shall be so with Tinubu. But there are social or even cosmic consequences when fratricide happens and I am just worried if Tinubu, even with the detachment of an undertaker, would be in a stead to absorb the arising verdict of a troubled conscience. Maybe, also like Okonkwo, Tinubu acted from fear of being thought weak. But it is better to be thought weak than to be thought greedy. The angle of the narrative that Ambode was ‘killed’ to service the greed of Tinubu has refused to dissolve in spite of the brewing propaganda of justification.

The conspirators are struggling badly to prove that Ambode was sacrificed for the good of 25 million Lagosians and not the greed of one man. Huge efforts and resources are being invested to convert the morbid professionalism of an undertaker to empathy. There are reports in the social and traditional media chronicling the sins of Ambode and why he deserved the treatment he got. The flipside is to infuse the action of the Lagos APC with altruism so that it would look as if the gang acted in protection of the public good and not to secure their stomachs.

There is actually one trending tribute on Tinubu ascribed to Prof. Wole Soyinka in which the Nobel Laureate glowingly described Tinubu as the saviour of Nigeria. But in all elements; diction, style and structure, the tribute is so unwolesoyinka-like. It is a concoction to push a fraudulent point. It only tells the extent that hawks can go to prove that they are doves.

The travesty wasn’t only in Lagos. Nationwide, the APC primaries to elect candidates for the 2019 elections were skewed in pre-determined directions. And the party national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole was in the thick enjoying the intrigues. In Lagos for instance, Mr Clement Ebri, chairman of APC’s national committee for the Lagos primary suddenly became an intruder in a process he should be supervising. While he was still struggling to make sense out of the abnormality of staging and concluding the polls as early as 10 am while he, Ebri, was only ready for the commencement of the exercise at about 2 pm, Chairman Oshiomhole announced in Abuja that he had been duly informed, (he didn’t say by whom?), that the Lagos governorship primary held and a winner was produced.

Prof. Pat Utomi has been lamenting because even as an aspirant, he didn’t know where and how the APC governorship primary in Delta was held. He heard, like others, when the winner, Chief Great Ogboru was announced. In Imo State, chairman of the election committee, Ahmed Gulak was declared missing. When he reappeared, he explained that he had to go underground to escape being kidnapped by aggrieved gladiators in the contest for the next governor of Imo State after Rochas Okoroacha.

But Lagos is not just like any other state. There shall be secondary after the primary. The state is not only cosmopolitan but retains the best in everything. It is the biggest economy in Nigeria and fifth biggest in Africa. The biggest and most successful businessmen are in Lagos State. The best professionals are here too. And so, what stands elsewhere may collapse under Lagos elements. So it shall be with the APC primary.

In fact, to me, the real question to ask is; how did Lagos State with all its outstanding and unique aspects come under the conquest of one man? How could entire 25 million people be sleeping at the same time? This is the same question for determination when the secondary and critical polls open in February next year to pick the next governor of Lagos from the array of contenders.

No doubt, Tinubu will still fight and even harder to win the secondary because his continued tenability depends on it. At the start of the on-going democratic dispensation in 1999, he was highly favoured by the Yoruba establishment (Afenifere) against the tide of popular sentiments, which put the late Funsho Williams ahead of him in the contest for the governorship seat in Lagos. Upon ascendancy, he struck at the kingmakers by creating a so-called Renewal Group out of the Afenifere and thereafter weakened their capacity to crown political kings in Yoruba land.

Effectively, Tinubu has replaced the kingmakers with himself. He has put in place a new power equation that has him as the constant coefficient in the Southwest. He chose Babatunde Fashola as his successor when he was leaving office in 2007 and chose Akinwumi Ambode to succeed Fashola when Fashola was leaving in 2015. He has also been choosing or attempting to choose in the remaining five states of the region and tried but failed in 2016 to expand his frontiers into the North Central State of Kogi.

In all of this, one thing is very clear and that is the fact that the Southwest has slept on its strength; a region so adored by others for its political resilience and sophistication is suddenly being led by the nose by one wise man! Today, the real issue in the politics of the region and not only in Lagos State is the anger against Tinubu and a seemingly belated plan to recover the region from his grip.

Everybody is waiting to meet in Philippi. This is why the 2019 general election, or what I will call secondary after the primary, shall also be a referendum on who, between Tinubu and 25 million Lagosians, really own Lagos State. Above all, the election shall mark a watershed in so many quarters nationwide, all things being equal.


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